John 21: 1-14 (15-19)
Sermon Preached at Luther Memorial Chapel, Shorewood, WI
Rev. Gary Gehlbach

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Grace and peace to you from our Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    For the disciples, it begins again as it began the first time. Although unique, the events of today’s Gospel sound familiar. You have the disciples fishing and catching nothing. This is very similar to our Lord’s first calling of the disciples (Lk 5). Afterwards they come to land and see a fire with bread and fish cooking. Then John records that Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. Now listen to what John wrote in chapter 6, Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted (Jn 6:11) and 5000 were fed.

John 21: 1-14 (15-19)
Sermon Preached at Luther Memorial Chapel, Shorewood, WI
Rev. Gary Gehlbach

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Grace and peace to you from our Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    For the disciples, it begins again as it began the first time. Although unique, the events of today’s Gospel sound familiar. You have the disciples fishing and catching nothing. This is very similar to our Lord’s first calling of the disciples (Lk 5). Afterwards they come to land and see a fire with bread and fish cooking. Then John records that Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. Now listen to what John wrote in chapter 6, Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted (Jn 6:11) and 5000 were fed.

    In today’s Gospel, it begins anew where it began the first time. Luke records that the great catch of fish and first call of the disciples took place at the Lake of Gennesaret. John records that the feeding of the 5000 took place at the Sea of Galilee. In today’s Gospel, you heard the location identified as the Sea of Tiberias. But interestingly enough it is the same body of water.

    It has come full circle for the disciples. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Evangelist John connects the dots from the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry to its conclusion and then to the beginning of the ministry of His holy apostles.

    You heard last week our Lord say, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (Jn 20:21).

    Jesus’ Father had sent Him to heal the sick and to bind up the broken-hearted. He had sent His Son as the Good Shepherd to tend and feed His flock. Christ our Lord has completed what His Father sent Him to do, but Christ’s work would not stop. Although Christ would ascend to His Father’s right hand, His work would continue through the ministry of His holy apostles.

    Now Christ sends His disciples as apostles and under-shepherds. They tend and feed His flock. Our Lord said to Peter, Feed My Lambs; Tend My sheep; Feed My sheep. Peter had three times denied His Lord. Now three times our Lord restores Peter to His office, not as chief among the apostles, but as a minister of the Gospel.

    This exchange between Peter and our Lord should be of great comfort to you and me. Peter had denied Jesus before men. And what had Christ said, Whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven (Mt 10:33). Peter’s tears on the night of Jesus’ betrayal reveal His sorrow over what He had done. Last week, we heard Christ say to Peter and the other disciples Peace be with you. And now today, you have heard Christ’s call to Peter to tend and feed His flock. Indeed, Peter could not love as Christ has loved, but he could give you what Christ had given him – Peace.

    Now, we may not have denied Jesus before men with oaths like Peter. But we have denied Jesus, by not loving and trusting Him above all other things. When we turn from the reading, hearing, and studying of God’s Word to indulge in the pleasures of this life, we are no different from Peter. As Peter and the other disciples knew that they deserved to be denied by God and placed under His wrath, so also we know that we deserve the same. Like Peter, we grieve over our sin and our impending doom.

    And this is where today’s Gospel brings comfort to sinners like you and me. Even though the disciples abandoned Him and Peter denied Him, our Lord comes to them. He desires to restore them to Himself. When their nets are empty, He fills them. When our lives appear hopeless and empty, it is Christ alone who can fill them with His peace. As our Lord miraculously filled the bellies of 5000 people with bread and fish, so in today’s Gospel He fills the bellies of seven foolish men. And so for you today, He fills your bellies with the food of immortality, His very flesh and blood. We cannot come to Him and restore ourselves to Him, but our Lord comes to us and restores us to Himself through the shedding of His blood. In short, Christ establishes peace between God and man.

    The Word of Peace exudes from all points of the liturgy and permeates all of God’s Word. His peace is something you do not deserve, yet He freely gives it to you. Although you are sheep who love to wander, He gives you His ministers who call you back to the fold and feed and tend you with the Word of Life and the medicine of immortality.

    Three times our Lord asked Peter, Do you love me. Three times Peter answered, Yes, Lord. You know that I love you. However, Peter was grieved when Jesus asked Him the third. He was not grieved merely because Jesus asked him, but Peter knew that his love for Christ could never compare with Christ’s love for him. Peter’s denials and fear reveal the shallowness of, and limit to, Peter’s love, even as you and I should recognize and confess the limit to, and shallowness of, our love for God and for one another.

    As Christ our Lord restores Peter to Himself and provides for the disciples, so also He continually restores you to Himself and provides for you in body and soul. Christ fed the 5000 with bread and fish and He fed His disciples with bread and fish.

    As a fish come from and have their life in the water so also you have come forth from the waters of Baptism and have been gathered into the net of the Church. Your life flows from the waters of your Baptism and so you daily return to those waters through daily contrition and repentance. In this Church, Christ daily and richly nourishes you with the Bread of Life – His very body and blood.

    Last week’s Gospel and this week’s Gospel highlight a key point for you and me – the power of the Word of God. It was Christ saying “Peace” which bestowed peace. It was Christ’s Word which caused the nets to be filled. It was Christ’s word which gave the Apostles’ that which was necessary to feed and nourish His flock – If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained (Jn 20:23). It was Christ’s Word saying “Follow me” which brought the disciples out of the darkness of their fear and doubt to follow Christ even to their own suffering and death.

    We see in the disciples a reflection of who we truly are – poor, miserable sinners, filled with doubts and fears. As Christ entered the locked upper room, so also He enters our closed and locked hearts. He speaks to you and me as His own dear children – Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28).

    For you, as for the disciples, His Word is powerful and effective. It kills and makes alive. In the waters of your Baptism, His Word has drowned your old Adam and raised the new man in you. As Christ called to His disciples to Come and eat, so also He speaks to you, “Come, My children, eat and live.” – Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me (Jn 6:54-57).

    Christ’s Word gives life and salvation because His Word speaks forgiveness. You are forgiven; go in peace.

    In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a